Reporter's Notebook
Ideas for protecting the planet

Ideas for protecting the planet

It’s Earth Day and restaurant chains are showing their support for this small planet on which we live.

Panda Express and uniform supplier Cintas are recycling retired and unused uniforms to reduce waste sent to landfills. Panda is also testing recyclable dinnerware.

Blaze Pizza gave away free stainless steel straws on Wednesday. You’re supposed to carry them with you to use instead of disposable plastic whenever you eat out – and they go in the dishwasher.

BurgerFi is using two large ceiling fans – made from renewable pine wood – in each restaurant, which use 66 percent less electricity compared with using a larger number of smaller fans.

Subway is switching to energy-efficient lighting, which in 2014 saved an estimated 25 million kilowatts, or enough to power 2,296 average homes for a year.

John Cox, chef at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, replaced the sprayer on his dish machine with an air compressor to pre-clean plates headed for the dishwasher, which he estimates will save 300,000 gallons of water every year. That’s huge in California, where the ongoing drought is reaching crisis levels, but any restaurant or chain could benefit by using less water.

And McDonald’s Corp., YUM Brands Inc., Dunkin’ Donuts and others are putting their collective muscle behind an effort to reduce deforestation by requiring suppliers to meet certain standards that prevent the rape of tree-rich landscapes, particularly for the production of palm oil, but also beef, coffee, poultry and packaging.

We need those trees.

It’s Earth Day, so we spotlight restaurant chains that are being green. But these things matter every day. And we need to do more.

In honor of Earth Day, the National Restaurant Association offered four relatively easy tips for sustainability that, frankly, you should have started doing long ago:

Recycle your cardboard. It reduces waste sent to the landfill and may have a second life as a paper cup.

Conserve water by establishing a baseline to understand how you’re using water. Look at all the ways you use water in your restaurants, where you use it the most, and consider how you could cut back.

Reduce your food waste by tracking and monitoring how much is produced. Record what goes into the trash.

Recycle your used fryer oil by selling it to those who would convert it into biodiesel. Some haulers will provide storage containers and clean grease traps as part of the contract, which can prevent sewage back ups.

I would add one: Tell your customers what your brand is doing. Marketing shouldn't be the only motivation, but customers do care about sustainability, and they will reward you for your efforts.

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